It's not something I was really aware of at the time, but one of the real bonuses I got from having 'older' parents was the music that I was brought up with. At school, many of my friends had mums and dads who were into the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, The Who etc etc. But mine were fans of music from decades earlier, and I was brought up on a heavy diet of easy listening... Sinatra, Crosby, Mathis, Nat Cole etc etc. I don't think I appreciated that much of it at the time, but it was the soundtrack to my early years, and as I've got older, I've noticed that much of it has matured in my brain, and I now genuinely enjoy most of the artists that my parents liked. I see this as a complete 'Brucey Bonus' as this is in addition to all the music I've discovered on my own. It works like a dream, and the combination of the two gives me an interest in music spanning from the 30's right up to today, and I'm pleased to be able to appreciate such a wide variety of music. And I really don't care if it's cool or not, if I like it, that's good enough for me!
The Ink Spots... even the name is iffy. But I guess the 1930's were pretty unenlightened times, leading to four black guys from Indianapolis (Orville "Hoppy" Jones, Ivory "Deek" Watson, Jerry Daniels and Charlie Fuqua) being given the name 'The Four Ink Spots'. Formed in the early 30's, they were one of the pioneers of a new style of music called 'Jump'. In time, Jump would lead into Rhythm and Blues, and ultimately, Rock n Roll.
In 1936, Jerry Daniels was replaced with a ballad singer called Bill Kenny, and their style changed to a more laid back croonin' sound. Success finally came for them in 1939, when they released the single If I Didn't Care, which would turn out to be their biggest hit. Believe it or not, If I Didn't Care, is STILL number 10 in the list all time biggest selling singles - Worldwide! It shifted 19 million copies, which is impressive enough in itself, but it's even more so when you compare it to what else is up there with it (and what else ISN'T):
Elton John - Candle in the Wind - 37 Million
Bing Crosby - White Christmas - 30 Million
Elvis Presley - It's Now or Never - 28 Million
Bill Haley - Rock Around the Clock - 25 Million
USA for Africa - We Are the World - 20 Million
The Ink Spots - If I Didn't Care - 19 Million
Beatles - I Want To Hold Your Hand - 12 Million (the biggest selling Beatles single)
Band Aid - Do They Know It's Christmas - 10 Million
There is something about the sound of the Ink Spots that sends me back... bizarrely, it's back to an era that I don't even know, but it's a cozy, simpler time. There is something dreamy and comforting about Bill Kenny's incredible tenor voice and the way it contrasts beautifully with Orville Jones' deep bass vocals. Listening to them also reminds me of 'old skool' Sundays, when nothing was open, sitting around the house listening to programmes like Family Favourites on BBC Radio 2!
The Ink Spots toured England a number of times, first making the trip in 1934. My father has vivid recollections of seeing them at the London Palladium in September 1949, although by this time, they were certainly past their peak, and had had numerous changes in line-up (but Kenny was still on lead vocals when my dad saw them).
It's pretty twee sounding stuff today, but in their own way, they must have been pretty revolutionary at the time. They may not have known it, but they certainly did their bit to pave the way for the pioneers of Rhythm and Blues in the late 40's.
Other than their recordings, very little remains of the original Ink Spots (officially, they continue to perform to this day, with a 'conveyor belt' approach to the line up). Not the original line up, but here is a clip of one of the later line ups (still with Bill Kenny on vocals) performing Do I Worry as a musical interlude in the 1942 Abbott and Costello film Pardon My Sarong. Orville Jones has gone by this time, and his replacement is awful! A horrible rasping voice that is quite unnerving!
Sit back with a cup of cocoa, and listen to 'I Don't Want To Set The World On Fire'
The 19 Million seller 'If I Didn't Care'
Richard Cowper cover gallery
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